Rings of Purity

It is the general assumption of most that the youth of today have little interest outside the walls of the nightclub, this generalization causes people to believe the ‘fact’ that their younglings have no religious leanings at all. However, the emerging popularity of Purity rings or “Chastity rings” in the US challenges he aforementioned assumption.

In the early 90s, less than three per cent of the American youth had taken the pledge of abstinence. In 2005, statistics showed that a whopping 44 per cent of American youngsters had taken a pledge of abstinence and had donned their purity rings.

Purity or chastity rings are typically affiliated to sexual abstinence groups (by and large Christian). Donning a purity ring is accompanied by a religious vow to practice celibacy until marriage. The ring is worn on the left ring finger, only to be removed when replaced with a wedding ring. The popularity of chastity rings is steadily growing all over the world. A large number of Australian, British, Swedish and Canadian youth have pledged abstinence by wearing the ring.

At the surface level, such a trend seems reassuring, but critics are quick to point out the follies of the growing popularity of the abstinence pledge. They state that virginity pledges are an impracticable approach to curbing youth sexuality. Studies have shown that abstinence programs “show little evidence of sustained impact on attitudes and intentions”. Moreover, they “show some negative impacts on youth’s willingness to use contraception, including condoms, to prevent negative sexual health outcomes related to sexual intercourse” – the reason for which is evident, kids who are taught to ‘just say NO”, and are drilled with repeated chants of “LOVE MEANS….Willing to Wait” are highly likely to make the wrong decisions regarding sex. Having pledged to “Just say NO”, are completely unequipped to deal with situations in which their libido is tested, and when their self-control does indeed break, they are unable to gain access to required information (and contraceptives) due to the fact that they had already decided that they wouldn’t ever need it. Upon evaluation, one realizes that the abstinence programs that are being heralded as the saving grace of the youth are actually no different from the archaic “ABSTINENCE ONLY” form of sexual education that most schools and educational institutions provide. Furthermore, most abstinence groups generate new members by portraying sex to be a taboo of sorts, something evil – meant to be shunned. The taboo status given to sex makes the (unsuspecting, unequipped) youth twice as curious to indulge and experiment.

Another criticism of the chastity ring phenomenon is the fact that wearing rings is almost as though one is attempting to provide physical proof of one’s chastity. As the witty Miss Manners states: “polite society does not recognize such a thing as a chastity ring. It is so polite that it presumes that a lady (or a man) is chaste unless publicly proven otherwise.”

However, there are certain abstinence groups that sincerely endeavor to educate the youth; they provide teenagers with access to information on all subjects associated with sex. There are also those youngsters who weigh their options prior to pledging abstinence and donning their chastity rings. They view their virginity to be the perfect “wedding gift”, and in the process of abstaining, they distance themselves from AIDS, pregnancies and other STDs for as long as they possibly can. Such individuals deserve to be applauded, not because they pledge abstinence, but because they make an informed decision – and stick to it!

Rayman Gill